Flash-Fiction: Oskar and Harmony

 

 

Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_vukvuk'>vukvuk / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

This is an unfinished piece written just before dinner last night. I was working on something different, but related, and this is what happened instead.

 

His arrival was always heralded by raindrops.

He would open with a tease, a tickle. Just a tiny hint of drizzle. If she didn’t immediately rise to meet him, he’d turn up the waterworks, make them into a soaking rain over the place in the sea where sirens dwelt between gigs.

Harmony would lift her face and arms into the cascade of bubbles, give a flick of her tail, and twist and turn in the newly oxygenated water. It was common knowledge that sea creatures got a little giddy during rainstorms, after all.

Spiraling upward through the frothy water, she would break the surface just in time to catch phase three of his greeting to her: a single arc of lightning that sent electricity humming through every fiber of her being.

And there he’d be, floating on a mattress of soft fog, just above the peaks and troughs of her beloved waves, her man. Her god. Oskar. Today he was sporting hair and a beard that matched the slate and granite colors of the rocks that formed her favorite jetty, and eyes that were the same bruised-purple as the sky before a storm.

They didn’t talk much, when they were above. His voice was the sound of a sledge-hammer, booming and forceful. It made the waves break far from shore and scattered fish in all directions.

As to her voice. Harmony was a mermaid. A siren. Her voice was meant to lure sailors to their watery deaths. When she used it on Oskar, she was never sure if he was staying with her because he wanted to, or because her voice was somehow compelling him.

Then again, when they were nested together on his bed of fog, they didn’t really need to speak to communicate, especially once they’d determined how thick the bed had to be before it was considered ‘land’ by the elemental magic that allowed her to split her tail into legs.

But when they were in her world, below the waves, then it was a different story. Her voice had no power over him when they were beneath the waves. And his…

Have you ever been swimming and been surprised by a thunderstorm, or been diving and felt a motorboat go by? That’s a taste of the way Harmony experienced Oskar’s voice underwater: feeling it more than hearing it. It was tangible, a physical grumble that was best appreciated when one of them was draped over the other.

Harmony had never planned to fall in love with a thunder god. The bird and fish who fell in love had it easy compared to Oskar and herself. But when they were together, when she was wrapped in his arms, and he rumbled sweet words to her or she felt his joyous laughter, she knew it was worth figuring out.

Egaeus’s Protege

xrayed teeth

 

“You teach literature don’t you?” The question was casual, conversational.

Her answer was a terrified bobbing of her head, up and down. In her defense, the metal bracket holding her mouth open and her tongue out of the way prevented actual speech.

“You know the Poe story ‘Berenice?'”

Another uncontrolled nod. Spittle formed at the corners of her mouth and he used a clean, white handkerchief to dab it away, then grimaced when he noticed that the bubbles of saliva held traces of blood from the metal cutting into the corners of her mouth. Untidy, that.

“He did it wrong, the man in that story.” He kept the conversation going as he reached for his favorite pliers. Needle-nose, with a cushioned grip. “He waited until she was buried before he went after his prizes. Miraculous that she still had all of them intact, especially considering the general lack of medical care or balanced diets in that era.”

The brunette with the wide brown eyes twisted frantically in her chair, but the zip-ties didn’t have a millimeter of give in them. She was there to stay.

“Grave-digging is such filthy work. Mud and bugs and gore… much easier to choose a live subject.” He leaned over her, pushed stray hair away from her sweat-soaked brow with almost tender care. “This is going to be… extremely painful.”

The pliers closed around his selected target. Smiling as he worked he twisted, tugged… pulled… until his quarry came free, root and all.

“Your dentist must be very good, my dear,” he said to the woman whose screams couldn’t quite make it past her throat. He lowered his voice to a reverent whisper: “You have lovely bicuspids.”

He let the small, white object fall into a metal bowl.

He expected that she’d react to the sound, but his expectation was met with great silence.

She had fainted.

No matter, she would wake soon enough, and they’d begin again. Wash, rinse, repeat, until he had all thirty-two.

Old Egaeus would have been proud.

Image copyright: radub85 / 123RF Stock Photo

Flash-fic: The Rules

monster under the bed

 

“Harry, remember, it’s only your first night. No one expects you to be perfect. Just go, growl, and get out.”

“I know, Mom.”

“Avoid the light… it won’t actually cause you to combust, but it can still hurt you. Remember what happened to Daniel? He was looking up at the closet ceiling when his assigned Child turned the light on. He was bulb-blind for days. Kept bumping into furniture… nearly got caught.”

“Avoid the light,” Harry repeated dutifully. “Got it, Mom.”

“And don’t forget about the Rules.”

“The rules?”

“Harry, we’ve been over this a fafillion times. If the Child is sipping water, they are Protected. If the Child has stuffed animals they are Protected…” His mother saw him roll his eye. “What?”

“The… stuffed animals… they aren’t Real animals, are they?”

“Of course not, Harry. They’re made of plush and foam and fluff.”

“Are you sure? Because Becky said – ”

“Harold M. Puddle, how many times have I told you that your sister makes up these stories just to bait you. The stuffed animals are not Real.”

“Then how can they Protect?”

“Because Children have Imaginations, Harry. And they Believe.”

“I thought Imagination was what we were made of.”

“Well, yes, but…”

“So if they can Believe we are under their beds or in their closets, and  Believe the stuffed animals are Real…” Harry had a scary thought. “Mom? What if they Believe that we aren’t Real?”

“Hush, youngster. You might as well wonder whether dragons really breathe fire. Some things simply Are.”

“Okay.” He straightened his posture and held out his claw-tipped paws. “Do I look fearsome enough?”

“Oh, very much so,” his mother assured. She pulled him close and gave him a slurpy kiss. “I’m so proud of you, Harry. You’re not even eight hundred yet, and you’ve been assigned your own Child. Just don’t forget about the Blankets.”

Harry knew about those, but his eye grew wider anyway. “Mom?”

“It’s the biggest Rule there is. A Child under Blanket Protection must never be touched. If your Child is under Blankets, what do you do?”

“Go, growl, get out,” Harry repeated the advice she’d given him a few minutes before. But he had a question, “What if… what if a Hand or a Foot isn’t Covered?”

“Well, some of the most experienced Monsters sometimes tickle a Child’s Foot or brush their fur against a Child’s Hand, but you shouldn’t try that on your first night. If the Child wakes up, and you get caught you’ll be sent back to remedial hunting. No one wants to spend their entire life chasing Cats and Dogs.”

Harry had met some of the remedial hunters. They ended up patchy and toothless. He definitely didn’t want that. “I promise not to try it… at least not tonight.”

“Good for you, Harry. Now remember, you’re scary, you’re stealthy, and you can make Children scream.”

“I’m scary,” he repeated. “I’m stealthy. And I can make Children scream.”  He took a deep breath. “Okay, Mom… here I go.”

He stepped onto the Ladder that would take him into the Attic and then into the Closet in the Child’s room, repeating it as he went. “Scary. Stealthy. Scream…”

As the Trap Door opened, Harry heard his mother’s voice, “I love you Harry.”

Harry grimaced happily.  I love you, too, Mom, he thought. Here I go.

 

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Diminished

At some point she began talking to the walls.

Really, she said, she was speaking to the former residents of her house, whose shadow-selves had been imprinted thereupon almost like a mural only she could see.

An animated, techni-color mural.

We’re never sure if we should humor her, or try to coax her awareness back to the here and now. The truth is, it’s harder for us than it is for her, because she doesn’t register the devastation on our faces when she fails to recognize us.

“Why aren’t you in school, sweetie?” she asks.
“I’m thirty,” I remind her.